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Every 2 weeks I'll be asking artists questions related specifically to their practice. 

Introducing This Weeks Artist: Shirine Shah
Insta: @_shirishah_

 

I met Shiri at Conditions studio programme, they moved into the studio space opposite me and we were often distracting each other, chatting about life, therapy, relationships, her cat who has sadly now passed away. They came to the studio as a writer and now have an art practice engaged with writing and film amongst other things, and have formed a working relationship with Matt Feldman a fellow artist at the studios . I feel as though I was lucky to watch their practice unfold and become what it is now in only a year and I am so excited to see where it goes. Text has always played a part in my work but I think through observing the way Shiri uses it inspired me - so that's what I wanted to ask about. 

 

I love the use of language in your work. How do you think writing can be received differently in your work? For example when performed or using text as the art.  

 

 

I’m not sure how my writing could be received differently from any other writing as I leave the interpretation to the whims of the audience. But fusing vocalisation/text with film (the visual poetry of looking at things), turning text into sculpture, hiding it within physical/ephemeral spaces, and interchanging utterances with instruments through performance can lift text from the confines of a page and redirect it as something that can be “looked at/overheard” rather than simply “read.” Paper-based text that’s concealed by a front and back page are still very much a vibe, however. Language in general to me remains an alchemical conjuration, and its slippages are quite funny and unnerving. I like to share that with others. I like to offer text as a tactile and confusing object that, with countless iterations, becomes so far removed from the original intention that it somehow finds itself back at the root. For instance, using translation to reintegrate the spectre of contexts that are often sidelined. The text should challenge the dominant narrative of the space it's in as well as play with it. 


A collection of writings I displayed at the Conditions end of year show in 2022 called I’d only rat you out for stealing ‘cause you’d get away with it, contained dozens of receipts from my time working at Harrods. I’d use the receipts thrown back at me by the ultra-rich to write poetry, make philosophical notes, and doodle. This was before the pandemic so it’s now an archival collection of an individual account of retail life before a huge global event had taken place. My subconscious methodology was to not only reclaim time, but waste it. I had this urge to waste time just thinking about stuff in a hyper-space that quashed all personal intimacy and exploited labour to the point we were all driven to this sense of dehydrated timelessness. We became untethered in a space we were bound to. I wanted to write a Ballardian novel about it, but the ideas I had of an isolated and collective retail subjectivity called for a more clinical approach. Arranging three year old scraps of paper in brightly lit vitrines screwed into stripped back walls situated within the Whitgift centre (a gesture towards diasporic modes of reconciling transient histories and the mutability of class dynamics) repositioned the disposability of my fleeting, time-thieving moments back into the centre of what I consider an archival and sculptural art piece. You don’t have to read what’s on the paper to understand a historical reality. The frantic scribbling of words and portraits interrupting a stream of consciousness does not require discernment. But it’s still a writing that urges you to move past the expectation that language is only a communicative tool. To me, words are simply objects.

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